NAME: DEENA FOWLER
Job: Owner, Play It Again Sports, 2015 W. Highway 50 in O'Fallon (618-628-2345)
Outlook: "I think when you have a mom come in that has three or four little kids and they know they wouldn't be able to play that sport if they had to buy all new equipment, it's just a gratifying thing to be able to help them get equipment and outfit their kid."
Deena Fowler was recently recognized by Play It Again Sports with the Sales Excellence Award at Play It Again Sports' Annual Conference and Trade Show. She has owned the metro-east franchise of the new and used sporting good retail chain for the past 21 years. She recently invited business writer Will Buss to her store to talk about her business:
Q: What did you think about being honored by your peers?
A: "It's great. It's an honor and a privilege to be selected by them. Some of it is based on the store's performance and how well we've done store-wise plus profit margin-wise."
Q: What does your business consist of?
A: "It is new and used sports equipment. We usually try to run somewhere around 30 to 40 percent used. Certainly, we'd like to have more, but we have to go with what's available. Our used equipment walks through that door from our customers. I think that some people think that we have a used warehouse in the sky somewhere where this comes from. But it walks in the door from our customers. We have to supplement that with new equipment that's available and we get that just like any other retailer. We order that from vendors."
Q: How did you get involved in this business?
A: "That's a pretty long story. My husband and I, I guess you could say, have somewhat of an entrepreneurial-type spirit. We had a friend who we were moving to the St. Louis area from Columbia, Mo. and he told us that we should look into Play It Again Sports. It was a fairly new franchise concept at the time. He told us we should look into it. And we found out that this market in this area was open and we went from there."
Q: What did you do before getting into this business?
A: "I was a teacher. At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom. When we actually opened the business, I was really not involved. Then, I started doing the bookkeeping because I still had a child at home. And then after my youngest one started school, I thought in order to understand the business better, I'm going to start working in the store a little bit. When she started in school full time, I started working in the store full time. But they were still hours that were convenient for a mother. We also have a store in Kirkwood, Mo. and I started working in both stores full time. Then, when my 5-year-old granddaughter was born, my daughter asked me if I would consider semi-retiring to take care of her. Three granddaughters later, that's what I do. I don't work in the stores per se, but I still do all of the bookkeeping and bill paying and payroll."
Q: What is the most popular item you sell?
A: "Our biggest category is baseball and softball. And then fitness equipment is second."
Q: How has the business changed in your time running it?
A: "We recently just expanded. We added about 1,500 square feet and we have over 5,00 square feet. We just finished it in February. We've kind of totally remodeled the store."
Q: What do you enjoy most about your business?
A: "Probably working with these (employees). They're the best. I enjoyed working in the store when I worked in it and I enjoyed working with customers. I think when you have a mom come in that has three or four little kids and they know they wouldn't be able to play that sport if they had to buy all new equipment, it's just a gratifying thing to be able to help them get equipment and outfit their kid."
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.